Disposal at the Natural History Museum

October 29, 2014


A talk by Ellie Simes


To see the slides for the talk, please click here.

Disadvantages of an Inconsitent approach to Waste disposal

  • Leads to bad practice with item disposal

  • Items that are disposed are often perfectly usable

  • Not good in terms of procurement

  • Disposal was previously down to individual departments at the NHM

  • There was no universal way to get rid of waste

  • Often poses a legal/reputation risk when disposing of waste in a disorganized fashion


Benefits of a consistent approach

  • Increase useful life of objects

  • Legal compliance

  • Protection of Museum heritage

  • Transparent and auditable records

  • Reduced costs and maximised income generation

  • More efficient decision making for staff

  • Efficient use of storage space (on and off site)

Potential disposal routes

  • SALE

    • Public auction

    • Sale to a specialist dealer or organisation

    • Direct sale to public

    • Sale for scrap value

    • Part exchange or take back by supplier

    • Staff sale


    • Internally

    • Reuse charity

    • Museums and galleries

    • Other organisations


Deciding on a disposal route

  • Is the item safe and functional?

  • Is the item useful to any other Museum department?

  • Does the item have heritage importance?

  • Does the item have a resale or scrap value?

  • Is there specific waste legislation dictating the disposal method of the item?

  • How quickly must the item be disposed of?

The first steps

  • Developed flow chart to guide decisions

  • Appointed responsible decision makers

  • Established relationships with auction houses, architectural salvage companies, reuse networks, etc

  • Created central records and income centre

  • Increased communications and working with colleagues

  • Promoted reuse within the Museum



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